Gravestone recycling – consumer initiative sees new opportunities Â© Jens Kalaene
Sustainability and recycling in the cemetery? This seems far-fetched only at first glance. The consumer initiative funeral culture Aeternitas e.V. Gives tips on how to repurpose tombstones that are no longer needed.
Interviewer: What to do with gravestones that are no longer needed? This question asks itself the consumer initiative funeral culture Aeternitas e.V. How do sustainability and recycling work with gravestones??
Alexander Helbach (press and public relations officer at the consumer initiative for funeral culture Aeternitas e.V.): Of course, we have a material that will only last 20 to 30 years in the cemeteries, but could theoretically last much longer. It was won and produced with much expenditure. And stonemasons are craftsmen who have the ability to rework these stones, to turn them into new gravestones or to make sculptures out of them. There is a whole range of possibilities.
Interviewer: How many gravestones are there per year that have to be cleared away??
Helbach: One can estimate that only. When we talk about 900.If we ame that there are about 000 deaths per year and take into account that in the past more people were buried with a gravestone than today, we can forecast that this year there will be around 500.000 gravestones become free, whose 25-year resting period now expires. That is a whole quantity.
Interviewer: What normally happens to gravestones that are removed??
Helbach: So far most of them end up in road construction. That is, they are shredded and processed into crushed stone and then reused in the mold. Very rarely it also happens that stones are taken for practice, for example for apprentices. But actually they are used under value. This high-quality material then simply becomes gravel.
Interviewer: And what is your idea of recycling??
Helbach: That's not just our idea. There are some stonemasons, who already convert that, who set very much on lastingness. They say: why should we always produce new, quarry new stones in the quarries? Why not use these stones? There are many options for this and there is hardly a limit to creativity.
Interviewer: If, for example, the grave of your great-grandmother expires and you don't want to have it extended, you can have your own name chiseled into the stone?
Helbach: Yes, one could do that. But it would be easier, when the grave runs out, not to have anything chiseled into it for the time being. Instead, you could have the stonemason take down the stone and then work with him to figure out how you want to use the stone later on. Do you use it with your own name on it or have it completely reworked? Another idea would be to put the stone in the garden as a sculpture for the time being and then use it later for one's own death if necessary. These are all possibilities that can be talked through.
Interviewer: Could also consider selling the stone from great-grandma to anyone who likes this recycling idea?
Helbach: Sure you can. There is no market for it yet, but there are some stonemasons who know about it, who could be approached. I think that it is not yet so far that you can offer gravestones somewhere and other private people come forward. But making contact through stonemasons would definitely be an option.
Interviewer: Do you know whether many people are already doing this or whether this is really a new trend that is now being promoted??
Helbach: The whole thing is unfortunately still very, very little widespread. But especially in recent years, there has been more and more talk about sustainability, about ecologically sound production in other industries as well. Naturally, the thought arises: Do we really want to produce new stones every time, which theoretically last forever, or isn't it interesting to reuse these materials?? In the industry itself, we hear that there are still few stonemasons offer. But there are a number of them who are particularly creative and dedicated. They would be happy to do that.
Interviewer: Data protection is a big ie, and there is also data on gravestones. What is then with it?
Helbach: It doesn't matter in the case, because the data of these deceased people on the tombstone no longer has the same protection as the data of living people. Apart from that, it is also the case that the data is removed, of course. That is, when the letters are screwed on, they are unscrewed. When they are carved, they are sanded down. There's no need to worry about that at all, it doesn't matter at all.
Interviewer: Is the gravestone recycling for the person also financially rewarding? Can you save money with that? This is also often a topic when it comes to funerals.
Helbach: That, unfortunately, probably rather not. Of course, one saves the new material, which is also quite expensive. For the stonemason, however, there are far more man-hours involved. You have to talk it over with the stonemason. It may be that the advantage of the available material is outweighed by the disadvantage of the additional work. But at least such a gravestone should not be much more expensive than a gravestone that is new.
The interview was conducted by Uta Vorbrodt.